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Redmond’s Used iPads, Spy Wars Escalate & More…

FOSS Week in Review

Court rules on Facebook privacy

If an employee makes a post on Facebook using a privacy setting that excludes the boss from seeing it, that post is off limits to the employer. Unless, that is, the poster has a turncoat friend who willingly supplies the post to the employer with no prodding to do so. That’s evidently the gist of a ruling handed down in August, as reported by PCWorld on Sunday.

The case involved Deborah Ehling, who was suspended by Monmouth-Ocean Hospital Service Corp. (MONOC) after she posted on Facebook in June of 2009 a response to news that a white supremacist had opened fire and killed a guard at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.


“Ehling had configured Facebook to show her postings only to roughly 300 ‘friends,’ which included coworkers, but not management. Unbeknown to Ehling, Tim Ronco, another paramedic who was on her friends list, was taking screenshots of her postings and sending them to MONOC manager Andrew Caruso, who then sent them to Stacy Quagliana, executive director of administration at MONOC, according to the court ruling.”

The court ruled that the post was covered under the 1986 Stored Communications Act, which protects communications configured for privacy. Ironically, however, even though Ms. Ehling scored a victory for Internet privacy proponents, she still lost her case. The coworker who sent a copy to her employer was on her “Friends” list, meaning he had the right to share them.

“‘The court said there’s no liability because she authorized the spy to see [the] posts,’ said David Straite, a digital privacy lawyer for the law firm Kaplan Fox & Kilsheimer. ‘And that’s important. This spy had no obligation to keep her private thoughts private.’

“Had MONOC management coerced Ronco into providing the screenshots or had asked for them, then the company would have been guilty of violating Ehling’s privacy. Under the SCA, the company would then be liable for punitive damages and lawyer fees.”

Although the ruling only applies to this particular case, it’s expected to affect future court decisions because of the dearth of cases regarding privacy issues in social media.

Microsoft will give you $200 for your used iPad

Microsoft Surface RTSteve Ballmer may be a lame duck CEO, but Microsoft is still up to its usual tricks. We learned last Friday from the BBC that the Microsoft store website is offering a minimum of a $200 Microsoft store gift card for “gently used” iPads. Covered under the deal are iPads 2, 3, or 4.

It’s pretty obvious from looking at the Microsoft site that Microsoft is hoping the program will result in iPad users “upgrading” to its Surface tablets, as the offer is just above a list of specs on the Windows devices, headed by the question, “Looking to upgrade your tablet?”

As the BBC points out, that’s not likely to happen.

“‘Do I think that many people will take [Microsoft] up on this offer? In a word, no,’ said Gartner mobile device analyst Van Baker. ‘The app ecosystem is the problem for Microsoft and this offer doesn’t fix that problem.’”

We would call the folks a Microsoft a bunch of shameless hussies for implementing this promotion, but we were taught that if we can’t say anything nice about people we should say nothing at all. Besides, if you’re reading FOSS Force, you already know what we think.

Belgium investigates cyber espionage from a foreign state

There’s more news in the spy vs. spy wars.

On Monday, Reuters revealed that Belgium is investigating espionage from a foreign state. The case involves Belgacom, a major carrier of voice traffic in Africa and the Middle East. Belgium prosecutors say that malicious software and advanced encryption techniques were used against the company in an attempt to gather data.

“‘The inquiry has shown that the hacking was only possible by an intruder with significant financial and logistic means,’ they said.

“‘This fact, combined with the technical complexity of the hacking and the scale on which it occurred, points towards international state-sponsored cyber espionage.’ The prosecutors declined to say which foreign state they suspected.”

Spy-vs-spyThe reluctance of the Belgium government to name a suspect state hasn’t stopped the local press however. The daily newspaper De Standaard has reported that for two years the NSA has been monitoring phone traffic through Belgium. In addition, earlier this month a Brazilian television network, Globo, reported that the NSA had hacked into the computers of Google; Petroleo Brasileiro, the state run oil company; France’s Foreign Ministry and SWIFT, an international banking cooperative based in Belgium.

The allegations coming from Brazil are creating fallout for the Obama administration. On Wednesday, the BBC reported that Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff postponed a state visit to the U.S. capital following reports that the NSA had targeted her emails and phone calls.

“US Secretary of State John Kerry has previously defended the NSA’s actions, saying they were necessary to combat terrorism.

“‘Brazil and other countries will understand exactly what we are doing, why and how–and we will work together to make sure that whatever is done is done in a way that respects our friends and our partners,’ he said last month on a visit to the country.

This was evidently wishful thinking on Mr. Kerry’s part. Brazilian authorities are now seeking ways of protecting data in their company, particularly from the U.S. One of the ways is by the proposed Brics Cable.

“This would see a fibre-optic link run from the Brazilian city of Fortaleza to Vladivostok, Russia. The link would pass through Africa and Asia and connect with cables running to mainland Europe and the Middle East.

“There would also be a link between Fortaleza and Miami, but it would mean data would not need to go through Florida before travelling elsewhere.

“At present the vast majority of Central and South America’s internet data is routed through a single building in Miami known as the Network Access Point.”

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again–no matter how secure you think you are, when you’re online you’re on a party line.

IBM to spend $1 billion bringing Linux to Power

IBM_logoAt LinuxCon on Tuesday, IBM announced they’re targeting a billion dollars towards Linux on their Power architecture. If this sounds familiar, it should. A billion bucks is the same amount that IBM said they’d spend on Linux in 1999, a move that forever changed the open source landscape.

According to ServerWatch, IBM is again putting their eggs in a Linux basket:

“IBM’s Power Server architecture has been struggling in the marketplace. IBM’s first quarter results in April revealed that Power revenues were down by 31 percent. At the time, IBM CFO Mark Loughridge said that Linux would be the way forward for Power, and it’s a strategy that IBM has been rolling out ever since.”

In May, IBM opened a Power Systems Linux Center in China and has plans to open another soon in Montpellier, France. Big Blue is also planning a Linux on Power development cloud for developers to use to build applications for Power.

New conference, “All Things Open,” to be held in Red Hat’s backyard

Here in North Carolina, where FOSS Force operates, we often bemoan the fact that all the good FOSS conferences are held in locations that are out-of-reach for our miniscule budget. In other words, as much as we would’ve liked to spend this week experiencing LinuxCon firsthand and reporting back to you, we’re stuck here reading the news online with everyone else.

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That’s one of the reason’s we’re excited about the All Things Open conference that will be held in Raleigh on October 23rd and 24th. The other reason is that this looks to be a truly great conference.

The event will focus on open source in the enterprise and the list of scheduled speakers is a veritable Who’s Who of tech movers and shakers. Not only that, they’ve managed to shoehorn-in more speakers in two days than would usually be expected for a much longer event.

The conference is being organized by the same folks who’ve produced the excellent POSSCON conference in South Carolina for the last five years or so. We urge you to check-out the event’s website and attend if you can.

If you can’t, don’t fret; we’ll be there for you. We’ll be present from open to close and will keep you updated. We’re still making plans on how we’ll handle our coverage, but you can figure that at the very least we’ll have several updates daily with a longer recap at the end of each day.

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That does it for this week. Until next Friday, may the FOSS be with you…

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